Looking after mental health

According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year. In the UK, mental health problems are responsible for the largest burden of disease – 28% compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease. Yet, we have a culture which does not address mental health as seriously as physical. We all have a mental health, which is connected to our physical health. Poor mental health can impact physical health, leading to an increased risk of some conditions.

Taking time out to show kindness to ourselves, to practice self-compassion, and to attend to our own (real and important) needs is important for positive mental health. As an integrative therapist, I like to take a holistic approach to mental health, and would like to share some important areas I cover with clients. I hope you find them useful:

  • Take care of your body: get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat well.

  • Realise that constant happiness is not possible. Feeling pressure to be 'happy' can leave us feeling inadequate. Happiness is an emotion; allow yourself to feel all emotions.

  • Practice self-care: make a personal list of the things that make you well-balanced and content. Take what you need from your list if something doesn't feel right.

  • Positive thinking: all consuming negative thoughts lead to feeling negative. Balance your thoughts by noting three things each day that went well, or put a smile on your face. It could be something as simple as a nice cup of tea.

  • Stop comparing yourself to others: evaluating yourself against another person discounts your individuality and can bring feelings of inadequacy. Challenge yourself against your existing experience, and develop the best version of you.

  • Limit social-media and 'unfollow': we only see 'the best bits' through an unrealistic lens.

  • Live in the moment: ruminating over the past can leave us depressed, and worrying about the future makes us anxious.

  • Tidy your 'mind clutter': list everything invading your head space in order of importance. Allocate a 'worry hour' each day to focus on plans and solutions, one at a time.

  • Connect with family and friends: either in person or over the telephone. Spending time alone is healthy, but sometimes we can isolate ourselves too much and feel disconnected.

  • Practice 'being you': we are all unique with our own interests and hobbies, so if you have been feeling a little lost, then engage in the things you love to do, and remind yourself of who you are.

  • Be kind to yourself: sometimes we do not give ourselves the same consideration as others. Notice the ways in which you treat yourself, including self-talk, and consider whether you would be happy if it was towards someone you care about. Ask yourself what you might say to your best friend or family member when the critical voice creeps in.

  • Create short, medium and long term goals: to bring purpose and motivation. If things feel overwhelming, then break the goals down to be more manageable.

  • Seek professional help if you need to: you don't think twice about that gym membership or going to the doctor when it comes to physical health.

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